DETROIT, MI – Greek-American billionaire and owner of the Detroit Pistons Tom Gores was recently in the news for his efforts to help the community during the coronavirus pandemic. An article in The Daily Beast (TDB) on May 17, however, focused on Securus Technologies, one of the over 40 companies owned by Gores’ Platinum Equity, suggesting that Gores is making a profit from “mass incarceration” via prison phone calls.
“Securus provides phone services to more than 3,400 prisons, jails, and detention centers across North America that are used by about 1.2 million incarcerated people, according to its website,” TDB reported, adding that “as of 2018, Securus, which Gores bought just months after the FCC rolled back Obama-era rate caps on prison phone services, was charging as much as $24.82 for a 15-minute call.”
The Los Angeles Times had reported in September of 2019 about the criticism Gores received concerning Securus, noting that “it’s not a new controversy,” as “inmates, families and advocacy groups have for decades protested the high price of calls, typically paid by family members who open online accounts with Securus and other telecoms.”
“There is a difference between businesses that have a few ethical, questionable deviations and a business that at the root, at the core, is unethical, where there is not a redeemable piece of the business left when you fix it,” said Bianca Tylek, a Harvard Law School graduate and founder of Worth Rises, a New York nonprofit campaigning against Platinum and other private equity firms, the Times reported, adding that “the stated mission of Worth Rises is to ‘dismantle the prison industrial complex,’ but Tylek has lobbied for practical reform including legislation that would either lower the cost of calls or make them free.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation in 2019 making prison phone calls free, the first major city to do so, the Times reported, noting that “the city got its costs with Securus down to 3 cents a minute.”
“Gores acknowledged that he never expected the Securus deal would lead to a campaign pressuring his firm’s institutional investors — ‘there’s a lot of hindsight here’ — but he refused to accede to demands for an early exit, saying the company will reinvest profits to improve operations,” the Times reported, adding that “Platinum typically owns its portfolio companies three to five years.”
“We are not going to pop in, make a few bucks and pop out. We are going to make it right first,” Gores said, the Times reported.
Gores was not available at press time for comment on TDB’s article.
It should also be noted that when the Pistons did not make the playoffs in 2018, Gores apologized to fans saying, “We continue to commit to Detroit, with kids and the future and the community. So we’re doing a lot of things that… are wins for the city,” TDB reported.